March 31 annual inspection renewal time always reminds me of several interesting cases that came about involving inspection authorization (IA) use and renewal. Let’s refresh our memories and take a look at two such cases.
The question to the FSDO
A technician very innocently called his local FSDO to ask if he could use his IA to inspect and certify an aircraft when his A&P was under suspension for a separate minor infraction. There were some local differences of opinion on this point between some technicians and inspectors. The inspector said that he would check the regulations and any current interpretations and get back to him.
I had been involved in a case previously where a similar event had taken place. I inquired further on what the outcome was on that case. We don’t know for sure whether or not the inspector ever got back to the technician with an answer, but what follows offers some idea of what happened as time went on.
The airman had his A&P suspended for 30 days for failing to properly endorse his entry of a return to service after performing maintenance. During the 30-day suspension period he did not pay attention to his calendar, and had performed an annual inspection on another aircraft but did not exercise his A&P privileges while performing the annual inspection. In other words, he said he did not perform any maintenance on the aircraft. All he did was inspect the plane. He thought, somewhat logically, that as long as he did not perform any maintenance he was still able to perform an inspection.
During a routine audit of the local flight school, the same inspector noticed that the A&P had performed an annual inspection on one of the school’s aircraft during the time his A&P was suspended. This was the same inspector he had talked to on the phone with the question.
The inspector asked for no explanations of the situation from the airman and sent off his report to the Regional Counsel with his recommendation for an immediate emergency revocation of all of the man’s certificates, including his IA, on an emergency basis.
As it turned out there was some valid basis for confusion on the point because various technicians and inspectors viewed the regulation in a different way. FAR 65.92a is quite clear on what is necessary in order to perform the function of an IA — but FAR 65.92b adds a little twist.
“… an inspection authorization ceases to be effective …
- when it is surrendered
- when no fixed base of operation exists
- when it no longer has equipment, or facilities ...”
Here, this part of the regulation states that an IA ceases to be effective on the occurrence of specific events. Other events are mentioned, but none include any specific reference to the suspension of an A&P certificate.
The man argued this point during his hearing on the case. He simply said that since the section clearly sets out how the authorization ceases to be effective, then failure to include the requirement of having a valid A&P certificate should mean that he should be able to use his IA while his A&P was suspended, regardless of what the previous section says. This seemed logical to many technicians who discussed the subject. This was not the first time that this argument had been used under similar circumstances. Needless to say, the argument did not convince the hearing officer. The violation decision was final.
I didn’t know
Ignorance of the interpretation of the regulation is no excuse. FAR 65.92a is very clear on the requirement of an A&P in order to perform IA functions. You should also keep in mind that your lack of any intent to violate the regulation also offers no excuse. However, intent is a very important factor in regard to the matter of what sanction or penalty shall be imposed.
The hearing officer in this case was convinced that the man did not intend to violate the rule and the fact that he had asked the FSDO for a ruling on the point also supported his request for a reduction in the revocation penalty.